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3 Key Medical News Stories: 18th October 2018

Prescriptive Dance Lessons

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! We will be bringing you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope and making them relevant and useful to you as a medical school applicant.

Joining us this week: tackling childhood obesity, prescription dance lessons and lab-grown organs!

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Tackling Childhood Obesity

Children in England currently have their weights and BMI recorded at school up to the age of 10, but child health experts now say this should continue up to the age of 18.

The Child Health in 2030 in England report highlighted that England has poorer health outcomes compared to 14 other EU countries, Australia, Canada and Norway. A range of health issues were emphasised, including:

What is clear is that poverty underpins major childhood health issues, so the report states a well-funded strategy would help to relieve the childhood obesity crisis.  Although the report acknowledges the government’s childhood obesity plan, other recommendations include:

What can we learn from this?

Children’s mental and physical health is a top priority for the NHS as it moves forward and prepares new strategies. Fortunately, child and maternal health is highlighted in the upcoming NHS England long-term plan.

It is clear that policy can have a huge impact on population health. This is particularly evident in the context of childhood obesity, as the root of the problem lies predominantly with poverty and social circumstances.

Question to think about: how can national policies and health campaigns affect health on an individual level?

Take a look at the sugar tax, which was implemented in April 2018 in an attempt to tackle the childhood obesity crisis.


Why not try one of our quizzes?


Prescription Dance Lessons

Theresa May announced that GPs in England will be able to prescribe social activities, including dance lessons, in order to tackle loneliness.

200,000 elderly people have not had a conversation with a friend or a relative in over a month, so it is no surprise that many GPs see between one and five patients a day who suffer with loneliness.

The long-term plan aims to get NHS patients in England involved in social activities by 2023. These include cookery classes, walking clubs, art and dance. In addition, £1.8 million will be provided for projects such as community cafes, art spaces and gardens. It is hoped these “social prescriptions” will reduce demand on the NHS whilst also improving many elderly patients’ quality of life.

It’s the first loneliness strategy to be implemented and it is said to be a vital first step in a long-term social change.

What can we learn from this?

Childhood obesity, mental health and the elderly population pose the greatest challenges to the NHS. Elderly patients are often discussed in the context of lack of social care or complex physical needs, but the major issue of loneliness is often missed.

It’s important this issue is addressed, as loneliness can be as harmful for health as 15 cigarettes a day, and it claims a significant proportion of GP appointments.

As a medical student and doctor, you will encounter many patients who face loneliness.

Question to think about: how would you approach a patient who tells you they are very lonely? What kind of support and advice would you offer?

Read more about empathy questions here!

Lab-Grown Organs

Scientist at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Francis Crick Institute have successfully bio-engineered an oesophagus and implanted it into mice.

The complex process includes stripping a rat oesophagus of its cells before using stem cells to build new muscle and connective tissue onto its collagen scaffold. The use of stem cells from humans and mice allowed researchers to differentiate between the origins of each of the developing tissue types.

The engineered oesophagus was able to structure and function like a healthy oesophagus, capable of muscle contraction and moving food down to the stomach.

This successful trial is a huge step for regenerative medicine and towards helping babies who are born with an abnormal oesophagus (approximately 1 in 3,000). The ultimate aim is to create bio-engineered organs from a pig oesophagus and a patient’s own stem cells. To do this would mean the possibility of rejection-free organ transplants.

What can we learn from this?

Organ transplantation is a huge topic of discussion and debate. Two major challenges face patients, the shortage of organ donors and the possibility of organ rejection. Stem cell and regenerative medicine is a rapidly advancing field that holds great possibility for the future, such as rejection-free organs.

Question to think about: what do you think about the opt-out system for organ donation? Read more about organ donation here!

Additionally, questions surrounding recent medical developments are common interview questions – take a look at our breadth and depth of interest interview questions

Words: Katie Burrell

Katie is a third year medical student at Lancaster University who also documents her life at medical school on her personal blog https://hopefulmedic.wordpress.com/

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